Monday July 11th, 8AM from Missoula’s own Adventure Cycling, we set off for Alaska.


Our first Adventure Cycling Portrait taken by Greg Siple back in 2009.

Since the big Bolivia theft, it’s been a long hard struggle to get back on the road.

After taking the painful decision to leave South America (just two countries shy of a complete circumnavigation of the continent), we flew to Miami in mid-May.

Our original plan was to re-group in Florida.  Arrange for Eric’s new bike, get the gear we needed and then set off across the US to my hometown of Missoula, Montana.

Well, as we’ve come to learn over the past five years on the road, things don’t always go to plan.

Plan C

In the end, we came to the conclusion that the best plan of attack would be to organize everything from the comfort of ‘home’…well my parent’s home. Being voluntarily homeless, mom and dad’s place is the next best thing.

So, we hung out in Miami (at the home of the amazing Ted, couchsurfer extraordinaire…guy even picked us up from the airport!) for almost two weeks waiting for a super-cheap flight to Spokane, Washington.

What, they flew to Washington State? Now, I know what you must be thinking, she must really come from some podunk place, isn’t there even an airport in Missoula?

Rest assured there is.  Missoula is hardly a contender for Hicksville, USA.  We’ve got an airport, just one that is damned expensive to fly into.  A little problem called no competition.

So we flew to Spokane, caught a ride with an old rancher and finally made it to Missoula just in time to celebrate Memorial Day.

Mind you, we were completely bike-less by the time we pulled into Missoula.  Airline lost my Koga.  Turned up later.  Seems she took a little jaunt without me to Las Vegas.

Home at last

What a relief to be safe and sound in Missoula.

June was a month wrangling with customs rules and shipping companies, but finally Eric’s beloved Koga arrived.

What can I say?  I’m jealous.  She’s a beauty.  Sleek and dark, running smooth, no rattles and shakes.

We couldn’t have done it alone

Again, many thanks to everyone who has supported us during our mini-crisis.  So many thoughtful blog readers and fellow cyclists rallied around us in our time of need.  That’s heartwarming stuff.

A special thanks to everybody who lent a hand at getting the Koga across one massive ocean direct to our doorstep in Missoula.

Sponsors to the rescue

Ours was a potential $6,000 loss (not to mention the cost of flights just to get back to the US and start re-grouping). That’s one big budget OUCH.

Thankfully, sponsors rode in like white nights and saved the day.  Suffice to say, we have never, ever been so well-equipped.  Thick down sleeping bags, moisture-wicking base layers, waterproof headphones, a kindle, a brand-new Big Agnes tent, Scottevest’s highly functional travel vest, bright-red panniers from Ortlieb, high-tech cycling jerseys from dare2be, protective slime to cut down on flats, McNett products for easy gear care and repair,  flashy reflective gear and mirrors, unbreakable water bottles and many more useful odds and ends from Planet Bike.

So much cool stuff.

Please spend a moment on the sponsors page and see which companies are supporting us on our quest to cycle every country on the planet.

A new gear page is in the works.  Keep checking back for updates.  We’ll be including information on how the cold-weather equipment stands up under Arctic conditions.

Arctic bound

We hope to make Prudhoe Bay before the snow starts falling. Don’t fancy a run-in with an Ice Road Trucker.

We are Arctic bound.  And given the 4,000+ kilometers and numerous mountain ranges that separate us from the Arctic Ocean, I have a feeling we’ll get a taste of that invigorating arctic weather.

There’ll be a few hardships I’m sure (think freezing temperatures, glacial winds and grizzly bears).  Speaking of Grizzlies, the big news in our neck of the woods is a fatal bear attack in Yellowstone Park.  That’s sobering stuff.

If you’ve got some fool-proof bear avoidance strategies, please pass them on.   Eric’s not got much meat on his bones, so I’m certain a hungry Griz will size me up as a much tastier morsel.

Don’t fancy seeing this guy in my rear-view mirror.

Vacation at an end

The Griz in the foreground is the University of Montana’s best loved symbol, behind you can spot the massive “M” on Mount Sentinel…my favorite hiking spot in Missoula.

Vacation in Montana is winding down.  I’ll miss my zumba classes, hiking up to the M and just hanging out with family and old friends.  I reckon Eric will not miss the long hours spent behind a computer screen chasing down new gear.

So, Monday it is.  We’ll be off on our epic Alaska adventure.  Check back soon for tales from our ride through the wide open spaces of Western Canada, the monumental scenery of the Yukon, and across the windswept tundra above the Arctic Circle.  Just hope we won’t have any grizzly encounters to report.


Your emails, comments, encouragement and suggestions for improvement are always appreciated.

And don’t forget to drop us a line or leave a comment if you’ve got bear safety tips.




Northward Bound: Ready, Set, Go!
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10 thoughts on “Northward Bound: Ready, Set, Go!

  • July 8, 2011 at 10:48 AM

    I’m so glad you guys are back on the road. I really look forward to hearing more of your adventure stories, rather than the disaster stories of late.

    Good luck, ride safely and I sincerely hope the Alaskan winter doesn’t come chasing your heals too closely.


    • July 8, 2011 at 10:55 AM

      Thanks Andrew. You are right that there are way too many cycling disaster stories floating around the internet as of late (I’m thinking of Peter Gostelow’s–Big Africa Cycle– bad luck in particular).

      We’ll do our best to bring you tales of kind people, great scenery and adventures that stay within the bounds of safe fun.

  • July 8, 2011 at 12:53 PM

    Hey Eric and Amaya,

    What a timely post, I was wondering what route you would take. Looks like an interesting one, I’d be interested in finding out why you selected this route (not that it’s a bad one at all, most people find their way through BC.

    Lot’s of bears once you get up near Dawson Creek and the whole of NE BC. To be honest, grixxlies get a bad rap, I have worked for years in bear country and if there is one to be warry of it’s the young black bears, they are curious and unpredictable. Grizzlies you rarely have to worry about as long as you remember you are in their territory and take precautions.

    Please let us know when you are nearing the Banff-Jasper leg and maybe we can come out and meet you as it’s close to home and we frequent these parts!! And please when you hit Canada, let us know if you need anything at all, both Mike and I have travelled a lot of this province and BC and can tell you a lot of great places to check out. Looking forward to this part of your adventure.

  • July 8, 2011 at 12:59 PM

    PS Additional Bear Tips

    – DO NOT wear bear bells… they are often called dinner bells (annoying and NOT effective).
    – Carry a noise maker, air horn preferably but a Fox Whistle can also work scarring off a bear.
    – We are carrying pepper spray, last defense, fortunately have never had too use it but have pulled it out on a bear twice.
    – Remember this addage, if it’s got a hump (i.e. Grizzly) be a lump, if it’s black fight back. For black bears, make yourself look as big and scary as possible, fight it off any way you can, you don’t want to look like an ‘easy’ meal. However, if it’s a grizzly, play dead, have something (i.e. backpack) on your back and lay face down on the ground, legs spread and fingers interlaced behind your neck to protect it). Key is to make it very hard for the bear to bat you around.
    – don’t climb a tree, bears can climb
    – don’t run.
    – talk to any bear calmly and sing loud in the bush!

    • July 8, 2011 at 8:50 PM

      These are great tips, thank you Karen. I was wondering about the bear bells because they sure are popular. Will take your advice and sing at the top of my lungs instead. Should be enough to scare any beast.

      Any advice on the Bear Keg of Bear Vault? Are these indestructible food storage units necessary up north? I’m just thinking about the tundra when it will be impossible to string our supplies up in a tree.

      Hope we’ll be able to meet up ion Canada.

  • July 12, 2011 at 5:46 PM

    Hey Amaya,

    Yes very good point regarding the bear keg. The bear vault doesn’t have a very good rap so I would avoid that product. The Ursack looks like an interesting prospect.

    Up in the tundra, you absolutely should have something to stash your food in. The BIGGEST issue with keeping bears out of your food is where you store it and making sure you do not attract them in the first place. Always good practice to cook at least 100 m from your tent and store food at the same distance, again having food items in as many bags as possible to block the smell and making sure grey/camp water is disposed of far from where you are camping. This also includes not sleeping in the clothes that you cooked in, storing your fuel away from your camp as well (bears for some reasons love the smell of hydrocarbons (I’ve had my quad seat ripped open in the field before b/c there was some fuel on it).

    Also where you choose to camp may be a factor on if you have a visitor, avoid trails, river banks, edges of forest, berry patches , i.e. places where bears may frequent.

    • July 22, 2011 at 9:51 PM

      This is great advice, Karen.

      So far we’ve spotted 5 bears (all black–one in camp) but no run-ins as of yet.

      Campgrounds have all had bear boxes and we’ve followed your advice about cooking away from the tent. Little lazy about changing clothes after cooking.

      The real challenges are to come.

      Again, thank you for all this expert bear advice. It’s much appreciated.

  • July 15, 2011 at 5:50 PM

    Ciao Eric ciao Amaya, vi ricordate di me? ero a Imotski Bosnia Erzegovina aprile 2009 non sapevo chiudere borse Ortlieb, vi seguo con passione ed interesse siete forti e coraggiosi tutti vorremmo essere come voi ma voi siete unici, io sono un piccolo viaggiatore ma voi mi avete dato la voglia di viaggiare mese scorso sono stato da Padova a Mosca 2700 Km per voi fine settimana per me importante, piccolo inizio. Un bacio siete grandi! Ciao Stè

  • July 16, 2011 at 6:58 AM

    Here is a classic bear warning story, good luck.

    The National Park Rangers are advising hikers in Glacier National Park and other Rocky Mountain parks to be alert for bears and take extra precautions to avoid an encounter.
    They advise park visitors to wear little bells on their clothes so they make noise when hiking. The bell noise allows bears to hear them coming from a distance and not be startled by a hiker accidentally sneaking up on them. This might cause a bear to charge.
    Visitors should also carry a pepper spray can just in case a bear is encountered. Spraying the pepper into the air will irritate the bear’s sensitive nose and it will run away.
    It is also a good idea to keep an eye out for fresh bear scat so you have an idea if bears are in the area. People should be able to recognize the difference between black bear and grizzly bear scat.
    Black bear droppings are smaller and often contain berries, leaves, and possibly bits of fur. Grizzly bear droppings tend to contain small bells and smell of pepper.

    • July 22, 2011 at 9:45 PM

      Thanks Nicolaus. Still not sure about those bells… as the old joke goes

      A guy’s going on a hiking vacation through the mountains out west. Before
      setting off into the boonies, he stops into a small general store to get
      some supplies.

      After picking out the rest of his provisions, he asks the old store owner,
      “Say mister, I’m going hiking up in the mountains, and I was wondering;
      do you have any bears around here?”

      “Yup,” replies the owner.

      “What kind?” asks the hiker.

      “Well, we got black bears and we got grizzlies,” he replies.

      “I see,” says the hiker. “Do you have any of those bear bells?”

      “What do you mean?” asks the store owner.

      “You know,” replies the hiker, “those little tinkle-bells that people wear
      in bear country to warn the bears that they are coming, so they don’t
      surprise the bears and get attacked.”

      “Oh yeah,” replies the owner. “They’re over there,” he says, pointing to
      a shelf on the other side of the store. The hiker selects a couple of
      the bells and and takes them to the counter to pay for them.

      “Tell me something, mister,” the hiker inquires, “how can you tell when
      you’re in bear territory, anyway?”

      “By the scat,” the old fellow replies, ringing up the hiker’s purchases.

      “Well, um, how can I tell if it’s grizzly territory or black bear territory?”
      the hiker asks.

      “By the scat,” the store owner replies.

      “Well, what’s the difference?” asks the hiker. “I mean, what’s different
      between grizzly scat and black bear scat?”

      “The stuff that’s in it,” replies the store owner.

      Getting a little frustrated, the hiker asks, “OK, so what’s in grizzly bear
      scat that isn’t in black bear scat?” he asks, an impatient tone in his voice.

      “Bear bells,” replies the old man as he hands the hiker his purchases.


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